What Is the Difference Between a Mechanical & Hydraulic Dock Leveler?

A dock leveler acts as a structure to bridge the gap between the trailer bed and the facility floor. By bridging the gap, a dock leveler helps to improve the loading and unloading process and create a safe loading dock. 

Picking the right dock leveler is a long-term investment and you want to make sure whatever dock leveler you choose will be safe, improve productivity, provide long-term service, manage heavy loads and maintain a smooth transition. Although there are many dock levelers available, hydraulic and mechanic are the most common types.

Hydraulic Dock Leveler

Hydraulic Dock levelers use electrical components in combination with hydraulic cylinders and pumps to lift the dock leveler and lip, deploying or storing the unit with ease. With the use of a control panel, the hydraulic dock leveler is engaged to the correct height and aligns with the trailer bed. As a result, hydraulic dock levelers are easier and more convenient to operate as they do not require the operator to do any manual work.

Mechanical Dock Leveler

Mechanical dock levelers use and require more mechanical parts such as springs, lip latches, hold-down, chains and more. Due to its mechanical parts, a mechanical dock leveler requires manual effort from the operator. The operator must pull a chain to position the leveler onto the trailer. Once the leveler is in the correct position and the lip is extended the operator must use their body weight to force the leveler down onto the trailer bed.


Upfront hydraulic dock levelers tend to be more expensive compared to mechanical dock levelers. However, long-term mechanical dock levelers will have a higher cost of operation. Because of how mechanical dock levelers are built, they are constantly under tension. This results in more repairs being required, in addition to maintenance fees, parts replacements and downtime. Breaking down the cost of life can help in your decision; considering capital cost, maintenance, and service, a hydraulic dock leveler would have the lowest cost of life. If you are not planning for a long period, then a mechanical dock leveler is a good alternative.


An important question to ask when selecting a dock leveler is, how much use will it endure? Will the dock leveler be used frequently throughout the day? Is there high dock traffic? And will it be integral to operations? If the answer to these questions is yes, then a hydraulic dock leveler may be the better option. However, if there is low dock traffic and the loading dock supports operations but is not integral to daily tasks, then a mechanical dock leveler may be a good alternative.


A mechanical dock leveler has more parts that are constantly under pressure and bearing thousands of pounds of weight. Due to this pressure, these parts require more maintenance and/or replacement on a regular basis. Alternatively, a hydraulic dock leveler will require less maintenance as it has fewer parts.

Can you Upgrade from Mechanical to Hydraulic?

If you already have a mechanical dock leveler and you’re not ready to pay for a new hydraulic dock leveler, consider a Hydraulic Conversion Kit. This kit will subsidize the springs and mechanical parts for the hydraulic operation of the deck and the lip. 

When it comes to choosing a loading dock, there are a great deal of factors to consider: budget, amount of use, operator safety, maintenance and more. If you have more questions or need help making your final decision, we are here to help you find the right solution. Book a free consultation with one of our Blue Giant Sales Engineers and we can talk about your options.